I recently had a call from a woman whose mother was injured in a car accident in June of 2010. She treated after the injury with a doctor and is still seeking help for her problems. Her husband was also injured in the accident and since his problems were minor, the insurance company settled with him right away.
When the caller asked for a settlement about a year ago, they insurance company told her that they can’t give her one until she is all better, but that she can call back when she’s done seeing a doctor. They did not tell her that she had to settle or file a lawsuit within two years of the accident date or her case was barred forever.
Well this past July she called them for a settlement and they told her it was too late. She was understandably furious, but that doesn’t really matter. The insurance company is not there to look out for your best interests and never will. It is probably a little sneaky and underhanded that they didn’t tell her to get a lawyer, but there is no law that requires an insurance company not to take advantage of little old ladies.
Insurance companies make money by limiting what they pay out for an accident or in cases like this, not paying out at all.
The statute of limitations (time limits) to sue are typically hard and fast and ignorance of the law is no excuse. The only way around it is to show you have some sort of brain injury that would prevent you from being able to file a lawsuit or that the insurance company intentionally mislead you. While it’s arguable that happened here, it doesn’t seem like that tactic would hold up in court. And either way, you certainly don’t want to risk losing your rights to bring a lawsuit or hope that you can win on a technicality.
So if you are hurt in a car accident, bear in mind that in most cases you only have two years from when it happened to file a lawsuit for your injuries (could be shorter if a Government vehicle is involved or longer if you are under 18 when it happened). If you wait too long, no matter how great your case is there is nothing any attorney can do for you.